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Have you recently lost your sense of taste or smell? Then you may be infected with the coronavirus COVID-19, even if you don't display any other symptoms.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) posted on its web-site that loss of a sense of smell (anosmia) and loss of a sense of taste (dysgeusia) are both symptoms of  COVID-19. Even if there are no other symptoms of COVID-19 - meaning it's a mild case, but it is still infectious and can be spread to others. Reports from South Korea are that about 30% of patients and from Germany that more than half of patients experience this.

It doesn't seem to matter how sick you are, or whether you are congested or not. Nothing seems to help - not nose drops or sprays.  Persons regain their sense of smell and/or taste after a few days or weeks.

It is suggested that loss of sense of smell could be used as a COVID-19 screening tool. Excerpt from the UK ENT group statement posted on the AAO-HNS web-site...continue reading "Loss Of Sense of Smell Or Taste May Indicate You Have Covid-19"

Chemicals of all sorts are frequently discussed on this site, especially those causing harmful health effects (e.g.pesticides, flame retardants). Developed countries depend on all sorts of chemicals and "chemical technologies", and they are present in most manufactured products. But how many chemicals manufactured by the chemical industry are actually out there? What do we know about them?

Around the year 2000 it was estimated that there were about 100,000 chemicals, but this was just looking at the United States, Canada, and Europe. Now a new estimate, looking at countries throughout the world, found about 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals that are registered for production and use.

Very little is known about about health or environmental effects of many (most) of them. Some estimate that about 3% of chemicals might be of "concern" (e.g. serious health effects), but that means about 6000 chemicals! Harm (adverse effects) to humans and ecosystems is called "chemical pollution".

The international team of researchers were concerned with one one of their findings: that the identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential (over 50,000 chemicals) or they are "ambiguously described" with missing details (up to 70,000). So only the manufacturers know if or how dangerous the chemicals are. Yikes!

From Futurity: The Worlds 'Chemical Diversity' Tripled in Just Twenty Years  ...continue reading "Little Is Known About Health Effects Of 350,000 Chemicals Now In Use"

Many, many women experience weight gain after menopause, with many experiencing "belly rolls" for the first time in their life. All women say that it is especially hard to lose weight after menopause, even though there are many health reasons to do so (e.g. postmenopausal weight gain is a cause of breast cancer).

A recent large study of women over the age of 50 (following them for 10 years) may offer extra inducement to try for weight loss. The main finding of the research was that weight loss after the age of 50, and especially if the weight is kept off, is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer.

The researchers found that the lower rates of breast cancer is linear - meaning the more weight is lost and kept off, the lower the risk of breast cancer. And even if some (but not all ) is gained back, they were still at a lower risk of breast cancer than a woman whose weight stays stable after 50. These findings of a lower risk apply to women who were not using postmenopausal hormones.

The lowest risk of breast cancer (32% lower) was in women who lost at least 20 pounds (9kg) or more, kept it off, and were not taking post-menopausal hormones - when compared to women who stayed at a stable weight after 50. The researchers said that the results were particularly striking for obese and overweight women.

It is thought that these good results occur because weight loss in postmenopausal women results in lower levels of sex hormone concentrations, as well as C-reactive protein, Interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, insulin-like growth factor 1, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein.

In other words, even if you are over 50 and overweight - it is not too late to lose weight and lower your risk of breast cancer! View it as breast cancer prevention.

From Science Daily: Large study links sustained weight loss to reduced breast cancer risk  ...continue reading "Weight Loss After Age 50 Really Lowers Risk of Breast Cancer"

For years it has been known that eating foods with artificial trans fats has serious health effects. It has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and risk of early death, diabetes, and poorer memory in middle-aged men. Now the results of a study, which followed 1628 older residents of a Japanese community for a decade, found that we can add dementia and Alzheimer's disease to this list.

The researchers measured blood levels of elaidic acid, which is a biomarker for artificial (industrial) trans fats. Those persons in the groups with the highest levels of elaidic acid had higher levels of dementia and Alzheimer's disease after a decade (a linear association - the higher the levels, the higher the incidence), but there was no association with vascular dementia.

The researchers found that eating sweet pastries, margarine, sugar confections (e.g. candy, caramels, chewing gum), croissants, nondairy creamers, ice cream, and rice crackers were all the strongest predictors of having higher serum elaidic levels in this study. [Notice that margarine, which for years was considered "healthy", is now considered "unhealthy" because of its trans fats.]

The FDA banned the use of trans fats in foods starting June 2018, but there is a big loophole, a really big loophole. Foods containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fats are allowed to be labeled as ZERO grams of trans fats, because they are allowing the companies to round downward. So if a person eats a number of foods per day containing these "minimal" amounts, they add up. And in this way one can wind up with pretty high levels in the blood. [By the way, some countries still allow trans fats. Also, read the interesting story of the man behind the U.S. ban.]

Where are trans fats still found? Trans fats are found in partially hydrogenated oils, as well as in other types of refined oils, monoglycerides, diglycerides and other emulsifiers, and even in flavors and colors. They are found in a lot of processed food (e.g. baked goods, vegetable shortening, vegetable oils, whipped toppings), so read ingredient labels carefully and avoid them. As usual, best are real whole foods . If you see something that you don't routinely have and cook with in your kitchen, then avoid that ingredient. For example, do you have monoglycerides in your kitchen? NO? Then it's an ingredient to avoid.

From Medscape: Trans Fats Tied to Increased Dementia Risk  ...continue reading "Trans Fats and Dementia"

Years ago I would see large flocks of birds in my yard - all sorts of songbirds and up to 40 robins at once. Year by year the numbers slowly started diminishing and this year there was only 1 lonely robin, no chickadees, no titmice, and no sparrows. A recent study documents that same finding, that bird species are in serious trouble and their numbers are in free fall in the US and Canada. About 3 billion birds or a 29% decline since 1970! This decline in bird numbers includes common "backyard" bird species such as sparrows. Yup, this confirms what I am seeing.

Similarly, recent studies found that there are tremendous declines in the numbers of insects, including bees and butterflies. Yup, this is also what I am seeing in my yard - only a few butterflies (and no monarch butterflies), and hardly any bees. All these declines are an indicator of environmental health and it is not good.

What can one do? For starters, we need the elimination of lawn pesticides in suburban areas, more insect-friendly flowers and plants, more milkweed (for monarchbutterflies), and fewer pesticides used by farmers, communities, on the sides of highways, etc. Pesticides kill. Think of it this way: Pesticides can give you and your pets cancer and other health problems, but weeds (wildflowers) can't.  [One example: Years ago I sent in a dead bird (1 of many that I was finding) to be analyzed by a wildlife pathologist, and he found that it had died of pesticide poisoning.] Ban or don't use lead bullets (bird lead poisoning). Also, do all you can to preserve open space - to be kept as park lands protected from development.

Excerpts from Science Daily: US and Canada have lost more than 1 in 4 birds in the past 50 years

A study published today in the journal Science reveals that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29 percent, or almost 3 billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis. The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats -- from iconic songsters such as meadowlarks to long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds including sparrows ...continue reading "Have You Noticed Fewer Birds In Your Neighborhood?"

A new large study found that eating a flavonoid rich diet is associated with a lower risk of death. Flavonoids are compounds found in abundance in plant derived foods and beverages, such as fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, tea, legumes, and red wine. The study followed about 56,000 people in Denmark for 23 years and found that eating higher levels of flavonoid rich foods was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause (all-cause mortality), heart disease (cardiovascular disease), and cancer.

The researchers found that there was an inverse relationship (the more one eats, the lower the risk of death), and that this relationship was strongest among cigarette smokers and people who consume high amounts of alcohol (more than 20 grams per day). Bottom line: Make sure your diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dark chocolate (yes!).

By the way, while other studies do find a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer in people eating a diet rich in flavonoids, in this study they were not looking at who got the diseases, but looked at deaths. Therefore the following title is misleading. It should instead say "... protects against cancer and heart disease deaths..." From Science Daily: Flavonoid-rich diet protects against cancer and heart disease, study finds  ...continue reading "Eating Foods Rich In Flavonoids Has Health Benefits"

We love plastic, and use plastics in basically everything. However, with time and wear and tear, plastics are worn down, and little plastic microparticles are released into the air. These microplastics are less than 5 mm (millimeters) long - about the size of a sesame seed or less. Studies are finding them everywhere, including our drinking water, in seafood, all sorts of foods, the dust, and the air in our homes and workplaces. And of course microplastics wind up in our bodies (whether ingesting them through food and beverages, or breathing them in so that they go to the lungs). No one really knows what effects they have on human health, but studies are starting to find harms to animal health.

Well...  now there is another cause for concern. A new study finds more than expected amounts of microplastic particles in remote parts of the world (the Alps and Arctic!) where no one expected to find them in large amounts. The German researchers report that the main types of plastic microparticles they found were from varnish, rubber, polyethylene, and polyamide (nylon). The particles are transported through the atmosphere by winds and air currents. View it as air pollution. Bottom line: As humans continue to use more and more plastics, and more gets released into the air, this means we all will absorb more and more microplastics with still unknown impacts on health.  Ultimately we all will have to address this issue.

Excerpts from The Atlantic: A Worrisome Discovery in High Arctic Snowfall

In just the past decade, scientists have discovered that microplastics—defined as any plastic detritus that’s about the size of a sesame seed or smaller—are a major new pollutant, the spread of which we’re only now understanding. Microplastics are present in 94 percent of tap water in the United Statesaccording to one study. They form as larger plastic items—toys, clothing, paint chips, car tires—get worn down and torn to shreds ...continue reading "Microplastics Are Found Even In Arctic Snow"

The Paleo diet has been around for years and yet it continues to be controversial. The debate is whether following the Paleo diet long-term has health benefits or not? Supporters of the Paleo (Paleolothic) diet say it promotes gut health and is good for gut microbes, but recent research findings are a strike against this claim. The Paleo diet is based on the hypothesis that humans have not adapted to eating products of agricultural farming such as grains, dairy products, or legumes (beans), as well as all processed foods, so they should be avoided. Instead it stresses eating meat, fish, eggs, nuts, (some) fruits, and vegetables.

So what were the new research findings?  Australian researchers found that people who had been on a Paleo diet for more than a year ate lower amounts of resistant starch, and so had a different bacteria profile in the gut - with lower levels of some beneficial species. They also had high levels of a biomarker in the blood (trimethylamine-n-oxide or TMAO) that is linked to heart disease.

The problem seems to be the lower intake of resistant starch - which is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. As the fibers ferment they act as a prebiotic and feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. More than one type of resistant starch can be present in a single food. And what foods contain resistant starches? Precisely some foods avoided in the Paleo diet: grains, rice, beans, peas, lentils, plantains, and green bananas. A number of studies find health benefits (e.g. gut health) from eating foods with resistant starches.

From Medical Xpress: Heart disease biomarker linked to paleo diet

People who follow the paleo diet have twice the amount of a key blood biomarker linked closely to heart disease, the world's first major study examining the impact of the diet on gut bacteria has found.  ...continue reading "Problems With Paleo Diet?"

Did you know that you are eating teeny tiny bits of plastic in your food every day? And inhaling the pieces floating in the air? These tiny bits of plastic are called microplastics, and are from all the plastic breaking down (degrading) in the environment. They have entered the food chain (e.g. from fish and other animals ingesting bits of plastic, food preparation, or from plastic packaging), and in this way we are also ingesting microplastics. They vary in shape and size, but some pieces can be so small that they can only be seen with a microscope. The problem is that microplastics can enter our body several ways (through ingestion get into the gut and so get into human tissues, or through inhalation into the lungs). They could trigger an immune response, or the plastic could release chemicals, such as carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Unfortunately, the health effects from microsplastic ingestion are unknown.

A study by Canadian researchers looked at all available evidence from 26 studies to try to get some idea of how many microparticles of plastic Americans ingest over one year. The researchers estimate that annual consumption of microplastics ranges from 39,000 to 52,000 particles (depending on age and sex). When they added in inhalation of microplastic particles, the numbers increased to 74,000 to 121,000. And those who only drink bottled water may be getting an additional 90,000 microplastics (versus about 4000 microplastics from tap water).

These numbers are for about microplastics found only in certain foods (fish, shellfish, sugars, salts, honey, alcohol) that add up to about 15% of the diet. But the number of microplastics in other foods (such as fruits, vegetables, meats, grains) have not been studied. The researchers point out that we ingest microplastics that are in the air and settle on our food during meal preparation and during meals. So the actual numbers of microplastics that are ingested each year are certain to be much higher! [Microplastics are even in our house dust.]

What can one do to lower the number of microplastics that we eat? Number one, drink tap water or bottled water in glass bottles, and less water from plastic bottles. Since no one knows about how many plastic particles are in other foods, one possibility may be to eat more foods and beverages that come in glass containers, rather than plastic containers. As the researchers point out, microplastic research is still in its infancy. They also felt that since this study only looked at certain foods, then they really underestimated how many microplastics Americans ingest each year.

From Science Daily: Americans consumer 70,000 particles of microplastics per year    ...continue reading "Americans Ingest More Than 74,000 Microplastic Particles Each Year"

Are you aware that other countries do not recommend all the tests and screenings that medical specialty organizations in the U.S. recommend? Medical panels in different parts of the world may issue guidelines that vary from U.S. medical specialty guidelines, and sometimes even conflict with them. This is happening even though all groups in various countries are looking at the same medical evidence on which to base recommendations.

This is because in the United States (unlike European countries and Canada) there is a fee for service medical system - the more tests, screenings, and procedures, the more a doctor is paid. Conflict of interest? Bias? Of course. Does it make for better care for patients? Based on the evidence - no.

Interestingly, independent medical groups in the U.S. (such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) that don't have financial interests in the medical services at stake recommend guidelines that are more in line with Canadian and European country guidelines. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an "independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine".

As many have pointed out, the approach recommended by medical specialty groups of more and more tests and screening leads to  overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and increasing health care costs. There also is specialty bias - which means whatever the physician is trained in, they are biased toward recommending those treatments and procedures. [Similarly, Dr. John Mandrola has written about the issue of employers evaluating physicians on the number of tests and procedures done (with the more, the better the evaluation), and on the harms that can result from screening, tests, and procedures.]

Dr. Ismail Jatoi (Univ. of Texas Health) and Dr. Sunita Sah (at Cornell) have written a thought provoking article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about these issues with a call to reduce these conflicts when medical organizations give medical guidelines. The panels should be multidisciplinary in composition, independent of specialty societies, and avoid fee-for-service conflicts of interest.

From Science Daily: Medical guidelines may be biased, overly aggressive in US ...continue reading "Why Do Medical Guidelines Vary So Much?"